OHairs Ascent Lehman Keeping Tabs

By Mercer BaggsAugust 10, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 PGA ChampionshipSPRINGFIELD, N.J. ' Sean OHair is a PGA Tour winner, a millionaire, and a man content with life who is preparing to play in his second career major championship.
It wasnt that way a year ago.
David Leadbetter and Sean O
Sean O'Hair chats with instructor David Leadbetter during Wednesday's practice round.
I know I was playing the Cleveland Tour last year this time, he said. Im not exactly sure where I was on the mini-tours obviously; traveling with my wife in our motor home from tournament to tournament, which is kind of funny when you think about it. So Ive come a long way in a year.
OHair, who made it through all three stages of Q-School in 2004, started his rookie season in the big leagues with one goal in mind: keeping his card.
But with a victory in the John Deere Classic, those goals have changed. He no longer has to worry about keeping his playing status and can focus on adding to his trophy collection.
Theres a lot of big tournaments coming up, and I just want to improve each week on whatever I need to improve on and try to learn as much as a can, said OHair, who tied for 15th in his major debut at the Open Championship.
I want to play well and obviously want to win, but right now I dont think Im quite seasoned enough to come into a tournament like this, or any kind of tournament, and say, you know, well, Im going to win this event.
Still, OHair, the winner of the 1998 PGA Junior Championship, thinks he can contend on the Lower Course at Baltusrol.
I think I definitely have the ability to play well this week, he said. Whenever Im playing well, I hit the ball fairly long and straight. Thats normally the strength of my game, the driver. And the driver is the key on this golf course.
The Ryder Cup is still over a year away, but U.S. captain Tom Lehman is already keeping tabs on potential team members.
I definitely pay attention to how guys are performing, and not just the points list, Lehman said, but also to where guys are finishing also in the big events.
Its always been my opinion the best players seem to be able to elevate their games in the big tournaments ' majors and The Players Championship and the World Golf Championships.
Lehman has competed on three Ryder Cup teams, but hes getting a better understanding of the biennial event while serving a captaincy role.
Ive come to understand a little bit more what the Ryder Cup probably means to not only just the players, but the media and the fans, as well, he said.
I spent three weeks in Europe, and a typical conversation like at the British Open would be: Hey, nice birdie on 15. Whos going to win the Ryder Cup? Then from there it goes to: Well, I sure liked the results (in 2004); I hope we beat you again like at Oakland Hills.
It was hundreds, if not thousands of golf fans with that kind of enthusiasm.
Its the biggest event in golf (for Europeans) and theres no bigger thing to win than being a part of a winning Ryder Cup team,' he added. 'I think thats been hugely beneficial to me, understanding that mentality, because you need to have the same exact mentality, if not better, to beat them.
Lehman added that he will be watching this years Presidents Cup intently.
Ill definitely pay attention to who is playing with whom, he said. Ill be very interested to see who (U.S. captain) Jack (Nicklaus) pairs together.
I also think its very important for the U.S. team that they win. I think its actually a huge week for the U.S. players.
As defending champion, Vijay Singh was the man of the hour at Tuesday nights Champions Dinner.
Yeah, my second job I think is going to be emcee if anybody wants to have me. I think I did a great job, he said with a big laugh.
He later said he was just joking: I think I screwed up. I was OK. You know, I wouldnt take that as a job, no. No, thank you. Id do something else. I make people laugh, thats about all.
Singh said the dinner consisted of Thai food from his favorite restaurant in Atlanta, Ga., as well as a few bottles of wine. He gave his fellow PGA Championship winners Fenwick fishing rods and a one-year subscription to Bassmaster Magazine.
I thought Id give something that everybody would be able to do, and fishing, a lot of players love fishing, he said. The Fenwick shaft was actually tested by NASA, in the shuttle that just flew over two days ago so its the only one of a kind. I thought I would mention that.
Players wives received Thai silk robes.
David Toms, as the 2001 winner, was in attendance at the Champions Dinner. He said his favorite part wasnt the food or the gifts, but the company.
Listening to Jack (Nicklaus) speak was a highlight. Just listening to him talk about his experiences at Baltusrol, Toms said. Its just great to be among that group.
Speaking of special engagements, Todd Hamilton attended his first Champions Dinner at the Open Championship four weeks ago.
I got to sit between two guys that had won the tournament five times apiece, in Peter Thomson and Tom Watson, Hamilton said. It was a magical experience. I felt a little out of place, but I guess I earned my way to get in there.
Hamilton defeated Ernie Els in a playoff in the 2004 Open Championship at Royal Troon. He since has only one top-10, and none this season.
He missed the cut at St. Andrews, and said that he was glad to put his Open champion reign behind him.
Im kind of glad that years over with. I didnt really play all that well after (winning) for quite a while, he said, adding that his expectations are still that of a major champion. Whether its a (regular) tournament, whether its a major, or whether its playing back home with my friends, it doesnt matter. I expect to play well.
As for his chances this week, in his first major since giving back the claret jug: Its going to be pretty tough. Youve got to drive it straight, and Im not driving it straight at the moment.
The PGA Championship will once again use a three-hole playoff should there be the need for one.
Players will compete on the 194-yard, par-3 fourth; the 423-yard, par-4 fifth; and the 554-yard, par-5 18th.
Tiger Woods defeated Bob May in 2000, the first year a three-hole playoff was used. Vijay Singh used the cumulative session to defeat Chris DiMarco and Justin Leonard a year ago.
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